It was the best of times… And has kind of stayed the best times, to be honest.
I am among the most despised of human beings. I am a Boston sports fan. I love the Red Sox and the Bruins and cheer for the Patriots and the Celtics.
For me, there is only one sport that really counts and that’s baseball and as a Canadian, I grew up loving the Montréal Expos. (Although I always have always despised the Toronto Blue Jays.) In my youth, I flirted with being a Yankees’ fan. This was largely due to the fact the first movie I ever saw was 1962’s Safe at Home, a story about a kid who loves the Yankees so much that he runs away to join the team.
But that flirtation vanished the moment the Expos appeared. When the Expos finally died in the mid-90s and the franchise was moved to Washington (I like but really do not care for the Nationals) I happened to be living in Boston and so my affiliation drifted to the Red Sox. In those days the Red Sox, well, stunk. Better days were ahead but in 1994 the Sox were the perennial disappointment they had always been.
I loved the Bruins because of father’s and uncle’s affiliation with the team. In the 50s, before hockey became unionized, players’ salaries were nothing to write home about. Therefore professional teams would do barnstorming tours across Canada. My dad and my uncle arranged for the Bruins to do such a tour in Nova Scotia in the late 50s. As a result, my wall was plastered with pictures of Milt Schmidt, Bronco Horvath and John Bucyk (who remain my favorite player until he retired in the late 70s). In my books, the greatest hockey player ever is Bobbie Orr, not Wayne Gretzky. I can remember lying in my bed at night with my little transistor radio when we lived in Saint John, New Brunswick, tuning the radio so I can hear a distant and scratchy broadcast of the Bruins games.
I’m not much of a football fan, but I kind of fell into liking the Patriots because I lived in Boston and they were the Boston team. Growing up I had been an Ottawa Roughriders fan and I really didn’t care much about the NFL and truth be told, I still don’t. For instance, I haven’t seen the last few appearances of the Patriots in the Super Bowl (there have been so many it’s hard to remember which ones in particular) because I was busy doing things with my family. I was glad when the Patriots won but it wasn’t super important to me. Not like the Red Sox.
Which brings me to the past 20 years. As an Expos fan and then as a Red Sox fan I was familiar with losing, sometimes in heartbreaking fashion. (Damn you Rick Monday!) But when the Pats won in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and then the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004 (although coming back from three down to the Yankees was perhaps the best moment) it’s been nothing but gravy.
I would’ve been happy with the World Series victory over the Dodgers this year. But it looks as if fate has decided that it’s necessary for a Boston team to beat a Los Angeles team in a championship game once again this sports calendar.
Several years ago, a friend who worked for ESPN told me that after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, ESPN the magazine had planned to feature a story abut how many championships the Boston teams had collected over the previous decade. The picture that the magazine originally wanted to use on the cover showed a fist with the middle finger erect and on that finger a championship ring of each of the four Boston teams. While I cannot think of a better picture that describes the attitude of Boston fans towards the rest of the country than that one, ESPN decided to just use a regular fist with four fingers erected with a ring on each finger.
It was the best of times…And it will probably stay that way for a while yet.